What Will SMS Add To the Falcon Flock?
The next big new idea from Dassault is its long-awaited SMS super-midsized jet program. The company has been decidedly secretive about what the program will amount to, making it hard to anticipate exactly where it will fit in the Falcon product family.
At face value, the SMS will be a replacement for the Falcon 2000 series. It will likely be the smallest of the Falcons, although Dassault is evidently trying to retain the established Falcon fuselage cross section.
Dassault has indicated that the architecture and aerodynamic outline of the SMS is already frozen. Before the program can move to the next phase of development, several key decisions need to be taken in the selection of major partners. One especially important unresolved issue is whether Dassault will stick with the early powerplant choice it made in June 2007 when it announced that the SMS would feature the 10,000-pound-thrust class Rolls-Royce RB282 engines. However, the company has since indicated that this decision is not final and that other options, which might include the French Safran group's proposed Snecma Silvercrest turbofan, are being reconsidered.
Financially, Dassault's ability to launch the SMS program may have been strengthened by the marked improvement in its available cash reserves during the first half of this year. As of June 30, 2010, the group reported available cash at €2.7 billion ($3.4 billion)–representing a 35-percent improvement on where it stood 12 months earlier and 15 percent up on the end of 2009. Dassault's accountants define available cash as cash, cash equivalents and assets available for sale, plus marketable securities and borrowing capability.
However, even assuming the SMS program does come to market, Dassault's long-term product development planning still does nothing to address the lower end of the market (midsized aircraft and smaller) or the very top end (that is, larger than the 7X, which competes with aircraft such as the Bombardier Global 5000 and the Gulfstream G550). Dassault seems to be sticking with its decision not to seek to conceive new-generation replacements for the Falcon 20 or 50 series, nor does it appear to have a direct answer to new rivals such as the Gulfstream G650. Any ambitions the company may have in the realm of a possible supersonic business jet remain entirely private.&nb